“I Was Most Alive With You” Shines with a Shadow Cast

“I Was Most Alive With You” Shines with a Shadow Cast

My journey for Deaf Talent leads me to Playwrights Horizons in New York City. ‘“I Was Most Alive With You” is the work of writer Craig Lucas. It features a Deaf (and deaf) character, and an entire shadow cast that signs the dialogue from a balcony overlooking the action. Lucas was inspired to write this piece, and learn about Deaf culture, after watching actor Russell Harvard. He immersed himself in the language and people, and it shows in this touching and in-depth look into the Deaf World and the world of addiction. Lucas’ hard work pays off with simple references that those who live in the Deaf World will get with ease but gives those who don’t know a small lesson.

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Sondheim's Views on Whitewashing are as Antiquated as He is

Sondheim's Views on Whitewashing are as Antiquated as He is

Let me make this clear, I mean all disrespect towards Mr. Sondheim with this column. I’ll gladly recognize him as a monumental figure in musical theatre history, but in the same breath mention that he has massively disappointed me.

In an interview with St. Louis On The Air , Sondheim talked about some of the protests against whitewashing in productions of West Side Story and The King and I.

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There are Plenty of Reasons and Ways to Cast Performers of Color Right Now

There are Plenty of Reasons and Ways to Cast Performers of Color Right Now

This weekend I had the pleasure to see both “Come from Away” and “Dear Evan Hanson.” Rest assured, this piece isn’t a review on either (or both) shows because if you’re reading this, you probably already know the main plot points to each. Instead, this is to highlight how casting people of color makes sense in virtually ANY scenario of ANY show.

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Having Fun with Gilbert & Sullivan in 2018

Having Fun with Gilbert & Sullivan in 2018

People often ask, who were Gilbert and Sullivan? Or what are Gilbert and Sullivan? My best answer is usually in comparison with William Shakespeare. They don’t have the same style, however, in many ways, they’re treated the same in terms of them both being their own genre in a sense. I wasn’t introduced to Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas until more recently, but they have left a unique impression on me. I knew of several of their operas in the past but had no idea these two men were behind the comic and iconic madness of these shows.

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Children Need to Keep Playing Children on Broadway Stages

 (Matthew Murphy)

(Matthew Murphy)

Mindy Poon

In a recent article in Theatermania about children performing on Broadway, Zachary Stewart asserts, “... and while I'm sympathetic to the call for representation of all types of people onstage, I don't think it needs to be perfectly literal. Ultimately, by insisting on actual kids to play kids, we're encouraging unimaginative storytelling for unimaginative audiences.”

They even went as far as saying child performers aren’t worthy of earning Tony Awards.

I wholeheartedly disagree with his assumptions from the standpoint of not only an audience member but also as a mother of three professional, child actors working in the industry for over ten years.

I can say for sure, that as a child, I would not have enjoyed seeing an adult actor playing Orphan Annie or Mary Lennox or Little Red or Oliver. When I saw those shows, and when I see shows with children in the cast now, I want to connect with the innocence of a child and the childlike realness that she or he brings to the character.  I enjoy hearing childlike voices and their timbre singing the songs that are written in keys to capturing their wonder and possibility. This is undoubtedly not unimaginative, yet the opposite.  I would not have enjoyed adults playing kids in Runaways, which was recently at The Delacorte this past summer after playing Off-Broadway at New York City Center two years ago. My young teenage son could bring a depth, connection, and understanding to the role that a grown person could not.

I find it difficult to accuse the late Elizabeth Swados of “unimaginative storytelling,” or for that matter Sam Pinkleton or The Public Theater who chose to cast children and teens to represent them at their annual gala this past year. The same could be said for the creatives of Billy Elliot, or The King and I, or A Christmas Story, or even Macbeth where the murder of a child is best represented by a child. ( My children have had the good fortune to be in all of these shows.) Many stories cannot be told properly without children being a part of the storytelling. No amount of “imagination” is going to change that.

The argument could be that this is work, and it is just unethical to allow children to work.  Anyone who knows any Broadway children and families personally will know that when children are as passionate as these kids are, the most ethical and moral thing to do as a parent is to help them pursue their passions.  Broadway children are akin to Olympic athletes.  They have a drive and motivation that is hard to contain.  We would not thwart our young chess champ or violin prodigy; so why would we stop a child who is capable of the juggling and balance that professional performing requires?  And yes, each show is different in the way children are treated backstage, but I can assure you, no child is doing this who does not love it! It is not possible because a child works two full-time jobs when he is on Broadway, and this takes discipline and focus, but it does not mean childhood is lost. 

Every family that I have met over the years focuses on keeping the balance for their children). It just isn’t what it seems like to the outside world. Ninety-nine percent of the kids who work on stage are the most humble, hard-working people you will ever meet.  It is wrong even to imply that time in a Broadway show could somehow make any child actors divas or that “... done wrong, you can find some zonked-out robots who sound like they've been media-trained by Stepford Wives...” as quoted by Hayley Levitt in the same article in Theatermania. Quite the opposite is true.  Reporting this kind of stereotype, even saying that it may only happen occasionally, perpetuates the idea of Mama Rose and the unwilling child actor. I know over 50 child actors, many who have sat in my home studying for tests, writing music, planning benefit concerts, singing karaoke, baking cupcakes for the Broadway Flea Market...just being genuinely good people. 

Did performing in a show harm those kids or enrich their lives?  Did having them in the show enhance the performance or hinder it? Did the life skills that child actors gained of:  time management, delaying gratification, self-motivation, patience, problem-solving, collaboration, innovation, creativity, fortitude, cooperation, and self-sacrifice contribute to the building blocks of their character? As my youngest child, William Poon said, “Kids need to be played by kids. Kids can do this.” He knows as well as anyone even at age twelve, having been on the international tour of Beauty and the Beast and then playing a royal child in The King and I at Lincoln Center all the while juggling third and fourth grades. 

Kids in Broadway shows are a special breed for all the right reasons, and they should continue to be an integral part of the Broadway community and bring a realness to the stage that only youth can afford.

Yes, Larger Men Can Play Hamlet

Yes, Larger Men Can Play Hamlet

In Act 5, Scene 2 of ​Hamlet ​by William Shakespeare, Hamlet is described by Queen Gertrude as “fat, and scant of breath.” This comment comes during Hamlet’s fight with Laertes. I even​ checked the Folio, Hamlet is fat. So, why aren’t there more fat Hamlets?

People seem to be very particular with which kind of actors play which parts and they seem to always comment on someone’s race or gender when they want to bring into question the legitimacy of someone’s performance. So, I ask again. Why aren’t there more fat Hamlets?

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A Black Actress Cast as Elle Woods? Oh My God Yes!

A Black Actress Cast as Elle Woods? Oh My God Yes!

If race isn't a factor in the character description, then anyone should be able to play it. Right?

A theatre company based in Seattle is doing just that with their upcoming concert productions of Legally Blonde by casting a black actress in the lead role of Elle Woods. Accomplished actress Alexandria Henderson is taking the reigns of the popular role for the SHOWTUNES production opening later this month.

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Gay for Pay, or Sexuality on Stage

Gay for Pay, or Sexuality on Stage

How do you audition someone’s sexuality? That comes up for me more times than I am comfortable with. I am a director who, when given the choice, works on plays and musicals that are queer-themed stories with non-straight characters. As a gay man myself it is also very important to me that I get to work with other queer identifying artists both on and off stage. But, how do I go about getting that information during the auditions process? 

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Mopsa and Pamela in "Head Over Heels" is the Celebration of Love We All Need Right Now

Mopsa and Pamela in "Head Over Heels" is the Celebration of Love We All Need Right Now

I could honestly talk your ear off for days about my love for Head over Heels, which opened on Broadway on July 26th at the Hudson Theatre directed by Tony Award Winner Michael Mayer featuring the music of The Go-Go’s, but I wanted to point out one of the stories being told in this fun, original musical. That is the story of Mopsa and Pamela

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Adding Diversity to Shakespeare: An Asian Theatre Company takes on "Henry VI"

Adding Diversity to Shakespeare: An Asian Theatre Company takes on "Henry VI"

Diversity and Inclusion is something I am very passionate about. I believe creating new works that are intersectional in this political climate is a way we can fight for what is right and help heal the divide in our country. I also believe we can make shows of yore accessible to today’s public by giving a voice to groups of people normally not identified with such shows. 

This is exactly what National Asian American Theatre Company (NAATCO) is doing with their latest production of Shakespeare’s Henry VI. Not only is it an all-Asian cast but it’s amazing how a play a few hundred of years old is still incredibly relevant today. 

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Specially Processed American Me

Specially Processed American Me

“I wanted to do a project on SPAM® because I think it’s a really perfect symbol of sort of the Asian-American identity. You know it’s this like this super American iconic product yet somehow super marginalized in the country and really embraced by Asian people and integrated into Asian cuisine. So that’s why I called the project Specially Processed American Me, a play on the acronym specially processed American meat for SPAM®, to talk about that.”

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What do Diversity, an Ancient Chinese Folktale and Feminism Have in Common? "The Monkey King"

What do Diversity, an Ancient Chinese Folktale and Feminism Have in Common? "The Monkey King"

There’s a new king (or queen) of the jungle, and it’s a Monkey. Wife and Husband duo Kimbirdlee and Jonathan Fadner are bringing an ancient tale to life with a beautiful diverse cast. 

Directed by Steven Eng of NAAP (National Asian Artist Project), The Monkey King will be playing on Roosevelt Island this coming weekend and then for one day only at Queens Theatre. 

Kimbirdlee is a woman of many talents and she not only co-wrote this show, but she is also starring in it as well. She’s a busy boss lady and was awesome enough to take some time and answer a few of my questions about this new work. 

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Chloe Bennet, Sorry If We Question Your Choice of Boyfriend

Chloe Bennet, Sorry If We Question Your Choice of Boyfriend

Earlier in the year, I applauded Chloe Bennet's reasoning for going by her stage name of Bennet rather than her birth name of Wang. Bennet revealed that she had changed her last name because she was having a hard time getting work in Hollywood. She decided to change her last name, to “Bennet,” her father’s first name.

“Oh, the first audition I went on after I changed my name, I got booked,” Bennet shared to The Daily Beast last year. “So that’s a pretty clear little snippet of how Hollywood works.”

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1000 Unseen Helping Hands: Having a Backbone in this Business

1000 Unseen Helping Hands: Having a Backbone in this Business

Mystic writer Joseph Campbell talks about 1000 unseen helping hands. I've seen this so often in the creative life. You know, when all the doors open up and you have incredible luck?!  This happened so much for me this past year on the road at film festivals promoting our award-winning comedy short “That’s Opportunity Knocking.” But this “winning” only happened after I witnessed 1000 seen UNhelping hands!  

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